CaltechAUTHORS
  A Caltech Library Service

General relativity as a hybrid theory: The genesis of Einstein's work on the problem of motion

Lehmkuhl, Dennis (2019) General relativity as a hybrid theory: The genesis of Einstein's work on the problem of motion. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 67 . pp. 176-190. ISSN 1355-2198. doi:10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.09.006. https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20190520-150912755

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.

408kB

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item: https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20190520-150912755

Abstract

In this paper I describe the genesis of Einstein's early work on the problem of motion in general relativity (GR): the question of whether the motion of matter subject to gravity can be derived directly from the Einstein field equations. In addressing this question, Einstein himself always preferred the vacuum approach to the problem: the attempt to derive geodesic motion of matter from the vacuum Einstein equations. The paper first investigates why Einstein was so skeptical of the energy-momentum tensor and its role in GR. Drawing on hitherto unknown correspondence between Einstein and George Yuri Rainich, I then show step by step how his work on the vacuum approach came about, and how his quest for a unified field theory informed his interpretation of GR. I show that Einstein saw GR as a hybrid theory from very early on: fundamental and correct as far as gravity was concerned but phenomenological and effective in how it accounted for matter. As a result, Einstein saw energy-momentum tensors and singularities in GR as placeholders for a theory of matter not yet delivered. The reason he preferred singularities was that he hoped that their mathematical treatment would give a hint as to the sought after theory of matter, a theory that would do justice to quantum features of matter.


Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.09.006DOIArticle
https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.09872arXivDiscussion Paper
Additional Information:© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. Received 20 August 2017, Accepted 23 September 2017, Available online 1 November 2017.
DOI:10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.09.006
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190520-150912755
Persistent URL:https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20190520-150912755
Official Citation:Dennis Lehmkuhl, General relativity as a hybrid theory: The genesis of Einstein's work on the problem of motion, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Volume 67, 2019, Pages 176-190, ISSN 1355-2198, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.09.006. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1355219817301314)
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:95615
Collection:CaltechAUTHORS
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:20 May 2019 22:46
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:14

Repository Staff Only: item control page